Give us a brief description of your background.
I love studying religions. Majoring in Islamic Studies and religions was a way to learn about the various cultures of the Middle East and the world in general. Apart from attending Al Azhar University in Egypt, I also attended the Faculty of Arts at Menoufia University in Egypt, and The Divinity School at the University of Chicago in the US. The religious education that I have gained from these various schools enhanced my understanding of the religious diversity in my community and in my country. It also facilitated my comprehension of how to strive to live peacefully and harmoniously among other global communities that encompass millions of people who have countless faiths that differ from ours.
I came from an Egyptian family that values higher education and seeking knowledge, whose adult members all have college or graduate education. My parents, who are in their 70s, encouraged us from an early age to be knowledge seekers in order to be better engaged and committed to improving society. My father has a BA in Agriculture Engineering as well as a BA and MA in Law. He practiced law all his life and was a principal in one of Egypt’s military school. My mom, who has a BA from the Faculty of Commerce, was a general manager at an Egyptian medical school.
What got you interested in interfaith dialogue and the program at Hartford Seminary?
Hartford Seminary has more than 50 years of experience in the field of interfaith dialogue. It is not just at the forefront of interfaith education, work, and engagement, but the seminary is also ahead of its time in this field. Several colleagues of mine studied here at Hartford Seminary and shared their valuable and memorable experience. They were either in the MA program in Muslim-Christian Relations, or in the International Peacemaking Program. This exchange of interfaith knowledge triggered my curiosity to learn more about Hartford Seminary. I spent the last year acquainting myself with everything about Hartford Seminary; faculty and staff, programs and courses, activities and events. My eagerness encouraged me to connect with former alumni, current students, and even faculty members of the Hartford Seminary. I was amazed by the hospitable attitude of the HartSem people and the friends of the Seminary and their willingness to share their experiences, which I deeply appreciate.
I worked as a Culture Affairs Specialist for nearly 12 years so far, and currently am the Head of the Culture Affairs Department at Sadat City University in Egypt. This work demands tremendous engagement with both the students and the faculty members of the university. I had the opportunity to survey the University’s whole range of cross-cultural and interfaith programs. When I found that students at Sadat City University had precious few opportunities to learn about faiths other than their own, I worked to foster the University’s educational partnerships with colleges and universities across the globe that could provide the multicultural learning experiences Sadat City University lacked. I also worked to develop programs that would enable students to truly engage and serve local communities. In less than four years at Sadat City University, I have helped enable Sadat City University’s learning environment become more conducive to multicultural education. I have modified many of the University’s cultural and scientific exchange programs to ensure students have the opportunity to learn from people with multiple perspectives on religious faith and belief.
What issues to address at home after year at Hartford Seminary?
I come from Egypt, one of the Middle Eastern countries with a majority Muslim population. Egypt also has a 10-15% Christian population and a small representation of Shi‘I immigrants, mainly from Iraq and Syria, who sought refuge from the civil wars and revolutions their homelands over the past decade. I live in one of the new cities which draws a large numbers of those refugees. I hope that my learning experience at Hartford Seminary, particularly in the interfaith education field, will help me bring a greater interfaith learning environment to Sadat City University and assist in creating a leading model for an intellectually-engaging environment of individuals who both question and respect each other’s faith.